Article written by Bonnie Schwartz, Friends of Senior and Scout Community Center Boardmember
Did you know that Seniors (age 55+) are 30% of the population of Manhattan Beach? While we are primarily known for high-caliber public schools, clean beaches and fantastic restaurants, Manhattan Beach is an amazing place if you’re “older.”
Of course, a mild climate, fresh air and ocean breezes contribute to the physical environment enjoyed by all. But as we age, seniors thrive by staying physically and mentally active and maintaining connections with others.
The City of Manhattan Beach recognized this and created an award-winning, full-time Older Adults Program (OAP) back in 2007. The OAP facilitates socialization, connection and increased cognitive function in many ways.
Here’s some evidence for just how important the programs, classes and support of OAP are for our older residents.
According to an AARP survey in 2019*, 1 in 3 adults say they lack regular companionship, and 1 in 4 say they feel isolated from other people at least some of the time. The evidence is mounting that loneliness and social isolation affect the way our brains actually function. And, this is pre-COVID 19 pandemic! Imagine the numbers now!
Other recent studies from Generations United, Centers for Disease Control and Stanford University found that:
- Social isolation significantly increased a person’s risk of premature death from all causes, a risk that may rival those of smoking, obesity, and physical inactivity.
- Social isolation was associated with about a 50% percent increased risk of dementia.
- Poor social relationships (characterized by social isolation or loneliness) is associated with a 29% increased risk of heart disease and a 32% increased risk of stroke.
- Loneliness was associated with higher rates of depression, anxiety, and suicide.
- Loneliness among heart failure patients was associated with a nearly 4 times increased risk of death, 68% increased risk of hospitalization, and 57% increased risk of emergency department visits.
The bottom line – being socially isolated and lonely can kill you!
Obviously, the need to offer opportunities for seniors to come together became even more critical during the pandemic, and the City adjusted their offerings to comply with all safety precautions and provides Zoom classes to encourage engagement.
Once we are able to gather again, OAP will resume its broad array of class options. Pre-pandemic, the Program typically featured activities ranging from morning yoga, ping pong championships to full-day field trips
There is another important way that OAP supports our community - sponsoring intergenerational activities, pairing youth and seniors for technology courses and other joint programs.
Not surprisingly, the positive impact of intergenerational collaboration and its effect on the quality of life for youth and seniors is also well documented.
In 2018, Generations United** and The Eisner Foundation issued All in Together: Creating Spaces Where Young and Old Thrive. This study includes the results from a public opinion poll that found that 92% of Americans believe intergenerational activities can help reduce loneliness across all ages.*
Stanford Center on Longevity agrees:
The mutual benefits that both children and seniors get from interaction with each other is evident in many different programs and facilities that bridge the gap between the two age groups. Intergenerational relationships have been shown to:
- Decrease the fear that children have of aging and the elderly
- Provide a sense of purpose to both children and older adults
- Offer both age groups an opportunity to learn new skills
- Alleviate the void of missing or distant grandparents/grandchildren
- Reduce loneliness and isolation, and decrease the likelihood of depression in seniors
- Help children discover talents and skills
- Give seniors an opportunity to pass on practical and emotional wisdom
To sum up, Manhattan Beach clearly is a great place to age – we have a beautiful healthy environment, a robust City-financed program for seniors to come together to learn and socialize, and a commitment to expand opportunities for youth and seniors to come together, benefitting both groups.
As we prepare of our post COVID-19 world, when we can safely gather again, we need expanded space for seniors and youth to get out of their homes and away from their screens. This is more critical than ever. The good news is there is a project underway which will meet this community need.
The proposed new Manhattan Beach Community Center (on the site of the existing Scout House next to Joslyn Center) adds much needed space to gather, and to learn, create, and socialize. It provides the Older Adults Program with a beautiful Senior lounge to call “home,” while allowing for increased connections and intergenerational access, which will contribute to the re-building of the social and emotional health of the whole community.
Friends of Senior & Scout Community Center is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization dedicated to raising the funds to design and construct this inter-generational community center.
For more information on the Manhattan Beach Community Center and to make a donation, go to thescouthouse.org.
*Survey is part of the National Poll on Healthy Aging sponsored by AARP and the University of Michigan.
Generations United, Centers for Disease Control and Stanford University: https://www.cdc.gov/aging/publications/features/lonely-older-adults.html
Stanford Center on Longevity: http://longevity3.stanford.edu/hidden-in-plain-sight-how-intergenerational-relationships-can-transform-our-future/
** Generations United is a proven, effective advocate for children, youth and older adults in communities and in Washington, DC. It was founded in 1986 by leaders at the National Council on Aging, Child Welfare League of America, Children’s Defense Fund and AARP. Their mission is to improve the lives of children, youth, and older people through intergenerational collaboration, public policies, and programs for the enduring benefit of all.
Bonnie Schwartz, Friends of Senior and Scout Community Center Boardmember
Bonnie Schwartz is a senior, a long-time resident of Manhattan Beach and a Board member of Friends of Senior and Scout Community Center.